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Claremont to offer school of fine arts free to students

Jan 10 2012

Claremont Secondary plans to open a school of fine arts next fall, positioning itself as a destination of choice for students interested in music, dance, drama and visual arts.

Billed as a "school within a school," the program will offer students a chance to graduate with two diplomas — one for completing their regular high school requirements and a second for earning 40 credits from the Claremont School of Fine Arts.

Unlike sports academies that charge a fee, the fine arts school will be free for students enrolled in Grades 9 to 12.

"The students still do all of their regular schooling," teacher Colin Plant said. "Essentially, what we're doing is creating a place for students who love the fine arts to come here and know that they're in an environment where the fine arts are really important."

The credits, as yet, will not count toward post-secondary education, but that's a hope for the program in the future.

The program seeks to build on Claremont's growing reputation for its fine and performing arts instruction.

Plant said Claremont already offers students the rare opportunity to take drama or dance for the entire school year.

"Most kids will take a block of acting and then that's it [at a high school]," he said. "Whereas here, you do it all year long and then you do a production as part of your course. You can do that all year long in any discipline you want, and that's fairly unusual.

"The fact that there's no fee makes it just downright an amazing opportunity. If you're a dancer and you want to study dance, you can do dance two times a day here all year long and not do it outside the timetable. So families, who are already finding there's not enough hours in the day, can come to our school."

Claremont principal Bruce Frith said fine arts staff have accentuated the regular curriculum with a number of locally developed fine art courses, such as a new offering in film and TV production.

Frith acknowledged that creating the School of Fine Arts is partially about raising the school's profile.

"How does this program expand and sustain itself?" he said.

"Well, to be honest, it sustains itself by ensuring we have enough students to run it. So, yeah, there is a bit of marketing and saying, 'Hey, if you are a student and have an interest in this, this is a local high school that can offer this program at no cost. "

Frith said the program has other spinoff benefits by helping improve overall student performance.

"When you have students who are passionate about something, it means that they are also focused on their studies in general," he said.

Teachers can use that desire or will to help students focus on the academic steps they will need to reach their goals or go on to post-secondary schools.

Claremont plans to unveil the new program at its annual fine arts night Thursday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7.50. Registration in the school of fine arts begins Feb. 1.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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